Macedonia accuses Greece of dumping illegal migrants


Macedonia has accused Greece of dumping illegal migrants on its territory, the Macedonian daily Dnevnik reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources. 

Greek authorities have been sending hundreds of migrants across the border mainly at two locations and usually during the night, Dnevnik writes. The authorities in Skopje, capital of EU-candidate Macedonia, have reportedly informed the European Union and its border management agency Frontex about the development.

Greece is getting increasingly nervous over the presence of more than one million illegal immigrants on its territory, analysts say, and seeks to alleviate the burden by illegally transferring them on other countries.

Trpe Stojanovski from the regional centre for Migration and Refugees (MARRI) is quoted as saying that Greece is a source of instability for Macedonia and the region.

“We are having a wave of illegal immigration, and this is coming from a EU country, this is a dangerous for our security,” Stojanovski said. He said the illegal immigrants arriving from Greece are from Iraq, Afghanistan, and recently from Mauritania.

Strasho Aggelovski, director of the Macedonian Centre for Asylum Seekers, is quoted by the daily as saying that the EU and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, are urging Macedonia to abide by international standards for dealing with refugees.

Greek-Macedonian relations are strained over the so-called “name dispute” since Macedonia became independent from the crumbling Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece claims the name, which coincides with the one of its northernmost province, implies territorial ambitions (see background).

EURACTIV asked the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to comment on the accusations from Macedonia, but received no answer.

Criticism of Lambrinidis appointment

Macedonia has recently been irked by the appointment of Stavros Lambrinidis, a former Greek foreign minister, as the EU’s special representative for Human Rights. In a commentary published by Dnevnik, editorialist Ivana Kostovska calls on Lambrinidis to react to the threat of Macedonia becoming a victim of the Greek crisis.

Up to 100,000 illegal immigrants are estimated to enter Greece every year, with the majority entering through Turkey. Greek officials connected the clamp-down to increased exposure to Syrian refugees and the knock-on effects of immigration on crime, including drugs.

Athens recently cracked down on illegal immigrants, detaining more than 6,000 over the weekend of 4-5 August. Some 1,600 are now set for deportation.

The extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party – which won 7% of the vote in recent parliamentary elections– stood on an anti-immigrant platform and has been accused of staging racist attacks in the capital. Analysts fear that if Greece fails to tackle the problem of illegal immigration, the influence of Golden Dawn could increase and its attacks on immigrants could become widespread.

To avoid being expelled from the EU border-free Schengen area, Greece is accelerating construction of prison-style asylum centres, putting it at odds with court rulings in other countries that asylum seekers shouldn't be treated as prisoners. Greek authorities defend the plans, citing similar facilities in France and Spain.

Of all the hurdles standing in the way of Macedonia's EU accession, the name dispute with Greece appears to be the biggest (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on 'EU-Macedonia relations').

Seen from Athens, the official name used by Skopje – Republic of Macedonia – is an open challenge to the Greek region of Macedonia. In reprisal, Greece pledged to veto Macedonia's participation in international organisations, including the EU, until the issue is resolved.

During NATO's Bucharest Summit of 4 April 2008, Croatia and Albania were invited to join while Macedonia's bid was put on ice. This was perceived as a serious blow to Skopje's hopes. It also sparked harsh criticism of the Greek stance, as it was seen as a breach of the 1995 UN Interim Accord.

Under the Interim Accord, Greece dropped economic sanctions against the Macedonia in exchange for an agreements by the country to drop the use of an ancient Macedonian flag as its own, and amend the articles of its constitution which could be seen as hinting at claims to Greek territory.

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